Photographer Nick Turpin captured smudgy portraits of London's travellers over the course of three winters, and the result is a mysteriously arresting new book
“I consider the candid public photograph to be an important social and historical document,” states Nick Turpin in the introduction to his newly published book On the Night Bus. The photographs in the collection feel poignant in spite of the seeming banality of their subject matter: Turpin photographed commuters on the top decks of London buses in the dark and dismal early evenings of three very British winters. The photo-book, published by Hoxton Mini Press and bound in sumptuous burgundy cloth, presents an intriguing voyeur’s view of the journey home, providing a curiously captivating new insight into this familiar routine. What’s more, lauded writer Will Self has penned the foreword, a brief and meandering account of his experiences on London’s night buses. As the winter nights become longer and colder, On the Night Bus, while not outlandishly joyous, is a rather happy surprise to find yourself engrossed in.
The range of people captured by Turpin as they ride the bus is delightfully far-reaching; from a toddler in a pink puffer jacket doodling on the window, to a distinguished older man, white-haired and wearing what could be a velvet jacket (details are smudgy at best through the condensation-soaked windows). We are given a window into the lives of these strangers – almost as though they are on display as museum subjects in glass cabinets – and looking at the photographs becomes a singular experience due to a pervading sense of familiarity. Yet, there is also a potent air of mystery about the series, an effect heightened by the literal fog that coats the glass. The comfort found in Turpin's new book lies in the fact that we can see ourselves in these photographs; that we have all (at one time or another) found ourselves lost within a happier realm of imagination to escape the gloom of a long night-time journey.
On the Night Bus by Nick Turpin is out now, published by Hoxton Mini Press.